Mary Lott was born in Los Angeles on March 23, 1946. Mary entered this world into privilege – the special privilege of being able to lead a life full of adventure and beauty. At an early age her family moved to Wales, Great Britain, where she developed a fondness for sheep herding. She regularly shared memories of those days and occasionally donned her tartan kilt.
While she was in elementary school her mother, an amateur archeologist, took Mary out of school to explore antiquities in Mexico and Guatemala. Her teacher agreed to her absence with the condition that Mary give a report to the class upon her return. This skill, which developed early in life, served her well throughout her education.
Mary earned a bachelor’s degree in music from California State University at Northridge. As an ambitious learner she continued to earn two doctorates in music, the most notable from Stanford University in orchestral conducting.
Mary lived her life in chapters. As an adolescent she mastered her swimming skills and proceeded to receive her lifesaving certification. With this accreditation she became the waterfront director at a Girl Scout camp in California for many summers. Late in life, during conversations about cold water swimming, she would occasionally offer a word of caution about the temperature at which hypothermia took its toll.
After college, while living in Idaho, she excelled at horse training and rodeo riding, even becoming a rodeo queen. Mary in fact had the belt buckle to prove it. She was accomplished at riding both English and Western.
Mary was extremely modest. However, when questioned she would share information on her vast experiences. Once when asked how she started to play the oboe; she told the story of beginning junior high orchestra. The teacher told the class to approach a table filled with instruments; Mary thought, “Well, this looks interesting”. That decision had a profound effect on her life. She mastered the oboe and she performed in many distinguished orchestras and chamber music ensembles. In addition to performance, she started her own music business, ABA Music. ABA specialized in supporting school music programs and the teachers who taught using the philosophy of Orff-Schulwerk. With her exceptional teaching skills, she joined the music department at Willamette University, where she taught until retirement.
Mary’s last endeavor was to train Bearded Collies, in which she also excelled. She began agility training and obedience, but found that it was not challenging enough. She then began sheep dog trials and herding. Her dog grooming room was filled with dozens or ribbons testifying to her talents.
Mary passed in her sleep with her computer on her lap on May 30, 2023. She was surrounded by her remaining two beardies, Coda and Greer. Mary’s survivors include her longtime friend Nedra Schnoor-Egan, her godchildren, great godchildren, friends in both the music and beardie worlds, and her neighbors, who had become family. She left them all before they were ready to let her go, and she is deeply missed.
Her ashes will be spread privately at a farm dear to her heart near Yelm, Washington, where Mary frequently participated in sheep dog trials. A memorial concert, featuring a woodwind quintet, will be held in Hudson Hall at Willamette University on Saturday, August 12th, at 2:00 PM. All are welcome.